The Invitation: A Novel

The Invitation: A Novel

3.7 6
by Anne Cherian
     
 

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A moving story that redefines the meaning of family, friendship, and success among a group of first-generation Indian immigrants.
Frances, Jay, Lali, and Vikram meet as students at UCLA. They came to the United States from India, eager to achieve success and riches for themselves and their children. Frances and Jay marry; the rest separate after graduation.

Overview

A moving story that redefines the meaning of family, friendship, and success among a group of first-generation Indian immigrants.
Frances, Jay, Lali, and Vikram meet as students at UCLA. They came to the United States from India, eager to achieve success and riches for themselves and their children. Frances and Jay marry; the rest separate after graduation. Twenty-five years later, Vikram invites his old friends to his mansion in Newport Beach to celebrate his son’s graduation from MIT. As their reunion nears, Frances, Jay, Lali, and Vikram each must confront where life in America has taken them. Has America proved to be the land of their dreams? A novel of cultural contrasts and surprising revelations, The Invitation redefines the meaning of family, friendship, and true success among a generation of immigrants.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“In Cherian’s gorgeously embroidered tale, nothing turns out remotely like you’d expect. A-.”
Publishers Weekly
Cherian’s latest (after A Good Indian Wife) is a character-driven page-turner revolving around four first-generation Indian immigrant friends—most of whom haven’t seen one another in the 25 years since college. They converge on a party being thrown by Vikram, a socially inept self-made man, to show off his success under the auspices of celebrating his son’s graduation from MIT. Cherian deftly conveys how their status-conscious heritage drives the main characters—Jay grew up wealthy, wed Frances, and expected success; now the couple struggle with lackluster jobs and an underperforming teenage daughter. Lali—ashamed of her son’s desire to take time off from Harvard—is drifting dangerously toward infidelity as she rekindles an old flame (who once betrayed her), while her American husband devotes himself to exploring his Jewish heritage. And the prosperous Vikram—in disagreement with the dreams of the son he’s feting at their Newport Beach, Calif., mansion—plans to use the pressure of the party to change his son’s ways. Cherian’s straightforward storytelling is riveting and rarely goes amiss (save for an instance of deus ex machina to resolve a pivotal scene), and the climax is fervent. Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Hill Nadell Agency. (May)
Library Journal
In Cherian's second novel (after A Good Indian Wife), a college graduation is just the excuse that four Indian immigrant UCLA alums need to reunite after having lost touch. Vikram, a tone-deaf Trump wannabe who made a fortune with his well-timed computer company, is throwing a splashy bash to celebrate son Nikhil's graduation from MIT. Vikram wants Nikhil to take over the company, but, with the support of his mother, Nikhil is determined to follow his heart and become a chef. Invited to Vikram's party are old college chums Frances and Jay, who married despite parental displeasure back home (Frances is a Catholic Goan, and Jay an upper-class Hindu) and are now struggling financially. Lali is the fourth member of the old college gang, married to successful cardiologist Jonathan, now somewhat distant as he passionately pursues his Jewish roots. Three dissatisfied couples, one fancy social event, and a long-held secret that sees the light of day make for a noteworthy party. VERDICT Purporting to look closely at the Indian experience in America, Cherian comes up with a less-than-flattering picture; the friends are all obsessed with what the others will think about their children, choice of spouse, financial status, and physical appearance. Concluding with some hasty surface resolutions, the book finally nudges uncomfortably into caricature.—Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor District. Lib., MI
Kirkus Reviews
After 25 years in the United States, four Indian friends living in California are forced to re-evaluate their lives in this novel about the costs and benefits of assimilation. Vic, Frances, Jay and Lali, newly arrived from India, met as graduate students at UCLA. But while they may have been lumped together as Indian immigrants, they come from very different regions, religions and socio-economic classes, and those differences have shaped their experiences in America. Vic, from a poor farming community he was desperate to escape, has had the most financial success while remaining the least assimilated. He returned to India for an arranged marriage and is unhappy with how Americanized his wife has become. Now, to celebrate his older son's graduation from MIT, Vic throws a grand Indian-style party at his Newport Beach home to which he invites Frances, Jay and Lali. Jay comes from an upper class Hindu family and seemed the golden boy in their UCLA circle; Frances, the daughter of middle class Catholics from Goa, felt lucky when they married. But UCLA was their highpoint. Jay has never risen above middle management; Frances struggles as a real estate agent during the economic downturn; and their 11th-grade daughter's grades have plummeted. If Frances and Jay have chosen to live away from the Indian community in a largely Jewish neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, Lali has gone further afield. Originally from a Jacobite Syrian Christian community in the Indian city of Cochin, Lali now lives in San Francisco with her Jewish doctor husband, who has recently begun exploring his religious roots. Feeling isolated, Lali has drifted into an online flirtation with an Indian lover from her past. Once the friends gather, emotions flare, and secrets come to light. With the possible exception of Vic, these characters' fallibilities only make them more likeable, particularly Jay and Frances, whose futures Cherian (A Good Indian Wife, 2008) disappointingly leaves the most unsettled. A mostly entertaining, sometimes thoughtful, but not terribly demanding Indian beach read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393345483
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/22/2013
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
633,018
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Anne Cherian is the author of A Good Indian Wife. Born and raised in Jamshedpur, India, she now lives in Los Angeles, California.

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The Invitation: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 6 reviews.
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DudleyS More than 1 year ago
Anne Cherian is a very talented writer who once again weaves together a wonderful tale of the intertwining lives. "The Invitation" centers on a group of Indian college friends and their coming together for the first time in over 20 years. Each of the three couples has expectations of how their lives would turn out. Many of these expectations are based on Indian traditions and norms. The story begins with an invitation to a graduation celebration for the son of one of the friends. From this point forward, the author masterfully unveils each character, who they are, what they want, what their fears are, etc. Little by little each character is tested through a series of events leading up to the party. Throughout the book the reader grows to understand the characters and develops an opinion about each. In many ways that opinion is challenged and changes by the ending of this elegantly written story. The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is due to not understanding some of the Indian terms. It would have been nice for the author to find a way to provide a definition without it talking down to Indian readers who are familiar with the terms. Fortunately, this didn't happen often enough to be bothersome. I also strongly recommend Ms. Cherian's first book, "A Good Indian Wife". Most definitely a 5 star book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice easy read, good story with a bit of Indian culture mixed in. Not for the reader who is looking for something very complex and challenging.